What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a multicellular, spiral-shaped blue-green alga that occurs naturally in saline and alkaline brackish waters. It is native to Chenghai Lake, China; soda lakes (alkaline lakes) of East Africa; and alkaline lakes found in the subtropics. Its use as a food product dates back to the Aztecs, who used it to make bread and small cakes they called tecuitlatl. Spirulina is nutrient-rich and contains numerous trace minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. It’s also a high-quality vegetarian protein source.
Spirulina is the common name for the cyanobacterium known as Arthrospira platensis. Scientists established the Spirulina genus in 1827 and introduced the genus Arthrospira in 1852. The debate over classifying the algae as Spirulina or Arthrospira spans over 100 years, with scientists regrouping the two genera in 1932. By 1961, researchers called this coupling into question, as they believed the microscopical technique used lacked tenability. In 1982, advanced techniques allowed researchers to identify distinguishing features between the two genera. Molecular research conducted in 1994 identified additional taxonomic markers that set Arthrospira and Spirulina apart.
Spirulina supplements and food products fall under the Arthrospira genus. However, the misnomer persists thanks to the taxonomy dispute persisting for more than a century. Scientific journals use the appropriate genus or include it in parentheses, whereas commercial products continue to use the more widely recognized term Spirulina to avoid ongoing confusion.
Potential Spirulina Health Benefits
Spirulina Powder as a Nutritious Vegetarian Protein Source
Spirulina powder is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and manganese. It’s also one of the few complete vegetarian protein sources, as it contains all nine essential amino acids. PureBulk's Spirulina powder is certified to contain more than 60 percent biologically complete protein.
Spirulina Powder as an Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Immunomodulator
Spirulina gets its blue-green color from phycocyanin, a pigment protein with antioxidant properties. Phycocyanin shares a similar structure with free bilirubin, which likely accounts for its ability to inhibit NADPH oxidase. NADPH oxidase generates free radicals when triggered by inflammatory cytokines. It plays an important role in innate immunity, but excess levels can contribute to oxidative stress. Free radicals and oxidants worsen and participate in many disease states and damage healthy cells. Phycocyanin combats free radicals and inhibits the inflammatory signals that trigger excess free radical formation. Spirulina also stimulates the immune system due to its phycocyanin and polysaccharide content.
Spirulina Powder and Heart Health
Spirulina powder may support heart health through several mechanisms. Several studies have found that spirulina helps balance cholesterol by lowering total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides. It also helps increase HDL (good) cholesterol. One study noted that participants taking spirulina saw a 16.3% decrease in triglycerides and a 10.1% decrease in LDL cholesterol after three months of supplementation. Its antioxidant properties also inhibit LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. Oxidized LDL triggers inflammation and causes plaque buildup on artery walls. Spirulina also helps relax and dilate blood vessels by increasing nitric oxide production.
Spirulina for Muscle Strength and Endurance
Spirulina powder may improve muscle strength due to its antioxidant properties and protein content. Exercise can cause oxidative damage to muscles, leading to muscle fatigue. The antioxidants in spirulina inhibit oxidative damage, allowing athletes to exercise harder for longer. Multiple studies noted participants experienced significant improvements in exercise performance, endurance, and time to exhaustion while taking spirulina supplements.
Spirulina vs. Chlorella
Chlorella is another blue-green alga with an impressive nutrient profile. Chlorella contains more provitamin A, iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and zinc than spirulina. However, spirulina has more copper and thiamine (vitamin B1) and fewer calories per gram than chlorella. Both algae are potent antioxidants. Chlorella has slightly more nutrients, but spirulina is the superior protein source.
Potential Spirulina Side Effects
Most individuals can take spirulina without experiencing adverse effects. Spirulina powder may cause mild side effects, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, or diarrhea.
Individuals with certain health conditions should not take spirulina.
- Spirulina is a complete protein and contains the essential amino acid phenylalanine. Individuals with phenylketonuria should not take spirulina, as their bodies cannot metabolize phenylalanine.
- Spirulina has immunomodulating properties. Individuals with autoimmune disorders or taking medication for autoimmune conditions should not take spirulina.
- Individuals with bleeding disorders or taking blood thinners should not take spirulina, as it has a mild anticoagulant effect.
- Spirulina may lower blood sugar and possibly interfere with blood sugar management during surgery. Individuals should cease spirulina supplementation at least two weeks prior to surgery.
Purity and Concentration of Spirulina Powder
PureBulk’s spirulina powder contains no additives, fillers, or anti-caking agents. PureBulk uses third-party accredited labs to verify supplement purity. It’s critical to purchase spirulina powder from reputable sources that perform third-party lab testing to ensure the product is free of contamination and toxins.
Tested by Accredited 3rd Party Labs
PureBulk's supplements are tested by accredited third party labs in the USA to ensure their identity, purity and potency. To receive a copy of these test results or any other PureBulk supplement please fill out the COA request form found here.